Our Alumni

Over 110 students have graduated from the Department of Biomedical Informatics (25+ PhD, 50+ MS, 25+ Certificate). The diversity of careers available to DBMI alumnus is evident in their biographies. Many of our graduates are teaching and performing research in academic institutions, such as Vanderbilt University, Arizona State University, and New York University while others have entered private industry with companies such as Cerner Corporation and Boston Scientific; some have positions in government agencies, such as the NIH and AHRQ, while others are at major medical centers, serving in roles such as Chief Medical Information Officer. We maintain a database of the career paths of our graduates. If you are an alumnus, please contact us if you would like to submit or update information!

Rafael Ceschin, PhD

Personal Statement about time at DBMI. I initially joined DBMI as a Master's student coming from a pediatric imaging background, looking to strengthen my computational and clinical translational research skills. I enjoyed my time so much that I continued on to receive my PhD at DBMI. My time at DBMI has been the most productive and developmentally enriching period of my academic life. The classes, mentorship, and environment at DBMI truly prepared me for the challenges of translating imaging informatics projects into real world clinical translational applications. The DBMI faculty, staff, and students are undoubtedly the most encouraging, welcoming, and collaborative group I have ever had the pleasure of being a part of. I continue to collaborate with the DBMI family, and the direction and growth of the department continues to amaze me every day. Awards 2018 - Best Student...

Danielle Mowery, PhD

Personal Statement: My journey through the DBMI training program began as a certificate student seeking the opportunity to understand how the electronic health record could be leveraged to support clinical and translational research efforts. I was fascinated by the diverse use cases addressed and innovative informatics solutions developed by the faculty, trainees, and staff. As a pre-doctoral fellow, I discovered my passion for machine learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing and received first-class training and strong mentorship from the distinguished faculty. My time spent among my colleagues, faculty, and friends at Pitt DBMI were undoubtedly some of the most influential and memorable times of my life.   Awards: Buz Cooper Scholar Awardee - emerging Cancer Informatics Center of Excellence Abramson Cancer Center/Breakthrough Bike...

Arturo Lopez Pineda, PhD

Personal Statement: Being part of one of the foundational Biomedical Informatics programs in the world was an extraordinary experience in my life, which has carried over through my professional career with an extended network of peers and collaborators. During my time at Pitt DBMI, I experienced the breadth and depth of biomedical informatics ranging from public health and clinical informatics to translational bioinformatics, including an immersive experience in clinical settings, internships, and rigorous methodological training. My journey at DBMI started with Dr. Rich Tsui, with whom I learned about natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) to support influenza detection in a real-world setting. I also had a fantastic group of professors including Drs. Shyam Visweswaran and Greg Cooper who specialize in the development of novel artificial intelligence...

Jonathan L. Lustgarten, MS, PhD, VMD

Personal Statement: I joined DBMI on the urging of one of my advisors as my interests was the combination of data and medicine. This would forever change the course of my career as during my time at DBMI, I learned the tools, techniques, and even more importantly how to employ them for new discovery.  I learned how to conduct inter-disciplinary studies combining experts across multiple domains, how to get to the root of a question to begin the approach in solving it, and importantly, how to ask the next question to keep the momentum going. All of this was only made possible because of the people I have been fortunate to work with there.  All the experiences, even the courses I took for knowledge increase, has helped me in my career helping integrate biomedical informatics into veterinary medicine.   Awards Student Inspiration Award, University of Pennsylvania...

Velma L. Payne, PhD, MS, MBA, MS

Personal Statement:  After an extended career in Information Technology, I decided to pursue my PhD within another department at Pitt. After taking a class within DBMI from Dr. Rebecca Crowley, I knew DBMI was the place I needed to be.  I immediately transferred to DBMI where I obtained the skills necessary to integrate my technology expertise with Medical Decision Making and Diagnostic Errors in Medicine. Dr. Crowley was instrumental in planting the seed of the importance of the cognitive aspects of medical decision making. Cognition was an area that I didn’t know I would love so much until I was mentored by Dr. Crowley. I believe technology is a valuable tool to augment medical decision making within the clinical environment. My goal is to provide tools to clinicians on the front-line of medical care that will reduce medical errors and enhance patient safety.  ...

Robyn Reed, BS, MA, MLIS

Personal Statement Like many people before me, my path to Biomedical Informatics was unique.  My education in science led to work in laboratory research before deciding to change careers.  Wanting to apply my scientific knowledge to another field, I completed my MLIS degree at Pitt and was fortunate enough to be selected for admission to the NLM-funded Biomedical Informatics and Health Sciences Librarianship Traineeship. The Biomedical Informatics certificate program allowed me to develop a solid understanding of clinical informatics and see first-hand how library and information science play an active role in medicine.  The novel combination of coursework, research projects, conference presentations, and working in the Falk library during my year of training provided me with a firm foundation for my new position in biomedical informatics librarianship.  The...

Jon Bickel, MD, MS

Personal Statement Turning to DBMI, one of the top tier programs in the country, to obtain my Masters in Biomedical Informatics was a natural transition for me since I was already in Pittsburgh having just obtained my MD at Pitt’s School of Medicine. Bioinformatics, which I realized as the nexus of medicine, education and technology, was the perfect complement to my existing work in the Lab for Educational Technology (http://let.pitt.edu/) and would smoothly morph with my existing work in clinical care. Inspired not only by Dr. Becich’ s vision for the wide ranging possibilities of bioinformatics in medicine, I also appreciated the idea production gained through the Colloquium series with exposure to so many prominent leaders in the field. Furthermore, the project work in preparation for the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) conference provided an ideal educational...

Heather Piwowar, PhD

Personal Statement I started at DBMI because it was a 10 minute bike ride from my house and I needed to learn more about clinical informatics for my job.  I stayed -- for a class, then a certificate, then a PhD -- because the profs were smart and thought-provoking, the students were friendly and interesting, and the environment was rich in opportunity.  Want to blog?  Run a learning lunch series? Take classes in diverse departments? Pursue a research agenda that is a bit off the beaten track? Present at conferences no one has heard of? DBMI's got your back if you have the initiative.  I'd also like to commend DBMI for being so family-friendly.  I had my daughter shortly after enrolling. She slept through many an afternoon colloquium. I'm very glad Pitt was such a short bike ride away: I have a new career I love, where I can make a difference, and I doubt I...

Catherine Arnott Smith, MS, PhD

Currently: Professor, The Information School, and Discovery Fellow, Virtual Environments Group, Wisconsin Institue for Discovery, University of Wisconsin-Madison 2002: PhD, Library and Information Science, Medical Informatics 2000: MSIS (Master of Science, Information Science), Medical Informatics Publications (links to PubMed) Personal statement: “The five years I spent at DBMI were among the most fulfilling of my life—intellectually and professionally. The lessons I learned—not only through coursework but through exposure to the multiple disciplines that make up medical informatics—remain with me today. I have been a full-time tenure-track academic ever since, am an active participant in medical informatics, and remain committed to integrating multidisciplinary understanding in my research and in my teaching.”

Matthew Scotch, MPH, PhD

Currently: Associate Professor, Department of Biomedical Informatics, College of Health Solutions, Arizona State University 2006: PhD in Biomedical Informatics Publications (links to PubMed) Personal statement: “I came to the University of Pittsburgh as a PhD student without a direction in this diverse and challenging new field. Four years later, I left the program as a doctor with an expertise in a focused area of public health informatics. One of the strengths of the DBMI program is that the faculty does not treat you as a subordinate, but rather a colleague with the potential to advance the science. This certainly facilitated my relationship with my advisor as well as the other faculty members. The PhD curriculum was rigorous, yet rewarding; I felt the faculty truly cared that I succeed. I am now looking to begin a career as a young independent biomedical informatics...

Gilan El-Saadawi, MD, PhD, MS

Currently:  Chief Medical Informatics Officer, M*Modal 2004: MS in Biomedical Informatics Publications (links to PubMed) Personal statement: “I began work in biomedical informatics under the mentorship of James Harrison, MD, PhD, and later received a fellowship in the Pittsburgh Biomedical Informatics Training Program. I also have been mentored by and am currently collaborating with Rebecca Crowley, MD, who helped introduce me to the practical part of the field. The best way to find mentors and collaborators is to express an interest in their work. An established and funded researcher will help to bring you along.”

Ann McKibbon, PhD

Currently: Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University2005: PhD in Biomedical InformaticsPublications (links to PubMed)Personal statement: “The people [at Pitt] are what I remember and value the most. Doug Fridsma and Ellen Detlefsen were stellar; without them, I would not have graduated. I remember project group members; new babies; relationships blossoming and souring; sharing rooms at the annual American Medical Informatics Association Annual Symposium; incredible, mind-expanding teachers; and ever-present and knowledgeable staff. Faculty, staff, and students cared deeply for individuals and the program, and we had fun. Thinking back, I want to say thank you, Pitt, and even more, thank you Pitt people.”

Raj K. Krishnaraju PhD, MS

Currently: Scientific Review Officer, Center for Scientific Review, NIH September 2000 to September 2002: Master's Degree in Biomedical Informatics Publications (links to PubMed) Personal statement: “Currently, I am working as a Health Scientist Administrator at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. My areas of interest are bioinformatics and molecular biology of cell differentiation.”

Pedro L. Hernández-Cott, DMD, MS

Currently: Assistant Professor, Deanship of Research, University of Puerto Rico School of DentistryJuly 2003 to August 2005: Master's Degree in Biomedical InformaticsPublications (links to PubMed)Curriculum VitaePersonal statement: “After 20 years as a general dentist with an interest in computers, this was an excellent program for aiding me in making the transition into academia. This is an outstanding program for exposing healthcare professionals, academicians, and researchers in how technology is changing and will be used in healthcare for the future. Moreover, it was an opportunity for me to interact with individuals from other ethnic and professional groups. We all gained new knowledge not only in informatics but also personal experiences in cultural awareness, thus developing our own team in ‘dental informatics.’

Christopher Mast, MD, MS

Currently: Assistant Professor; Associate Physician Project Director for the Electronic Medical Record Implementation Project; University of Texas, Galveston2003: Master’s Degree in Biomedical InformaticsPublications (links to PubMed)Personal statement: “My training in biomedical informatics from Pitt is invaluable, and I use it every day. Clinicians and healthcare leaders are hungry for practical, high quality information on breakthroughs and best practices in our field. Expertise in evaluation is a particularly rare commodity. I also find that knowledge of the organizational literature is extremely useful. My research interests include the factors that influence the effects of clinical system interventions on process and patient outcomes. These are natural extensions of my master’s work at Pitt.”

Deborah A. Lewis, EdD, MPH, MS

Currently: Associate Professor of Nursing, Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania 1999: Master's Degree in Public Health 2006: Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship Curriculum Vitae (pdf) Publications: see CV Personal statement: “The Biomedical Informatics program at the University of Pittsburgh provided me with the opportunity to enhance my knowledge and network with professional colleagues. I have been able to achieve my professional goals due, in large part, to the opportunities provided by this academic program. I have been able to expand my interest in the development of consumer health informatics applications and in my program of research.”

Patricia Corby, DDS, MS

Currently: Associate Professor of Oral Medicine and Associate Dean of Translational Reserach, Department of Oral Medicine, University of Pennsylvania August 2002 to August 2005: Master's Degree in Biomedical Informatics Publications (links to PubMed) Personal Statement: “For many years now, I have been working with research in all aspects from basic science to clinical research. My limitation in dealing with many research tasks was the lack in knowledge and skills related to efficiently managing the enormous amount of information gathered during each aspect of research projects. The training program exposed me to a broad biomedical informatics curriculum, encompassing medical information access and retrieval, medical databases, decision support systems, and computational medicine. This training was so far the most valuable contribution to my career development. I truly believe...

Christa Bartos, BSN, MS, PhD

Currently: Retired 2008: Doctoral Degree in Biomedical Informatics Publications (links to PubMed) Curriculum Vitae (pdf) Personal statement: “For years, I worked in the field of clinical information technology, always searching for the academic field that would enhance my applied skills with the underlying theoretical knowledge I needed. When I discovered the Center for Biomedical Informatics (now a department), I felt like I had come home! The faculty was brilliant, inspiring, caring, and supportive. The staff was knowledgeable and enabling, allowing us to work toward our goals without distraction. The students were among the brightest and most highly motivated people I have ever met, and I felt honored to be among them. At DBMI, students are made to feel an integral part of the department and are guided toward their life goals beyond school. Lifelong bonds as colleagues are...

Constantin Aliferis, MD, PhD

Currently: Director of the Institute for Health Informatics, Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine, Chief Research Informatics Office for the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, University of Minnesota 1998: PhD in Intelligent Systems (Biomedical Informatics) Publications (links to PubMed) Personal statement: “Having Greg Cooper as an advisor and working on extremely novel computational causal discovery with Bayesian networks methodology shaped my research career. Climbing the hill to upper campus to see Bruce Buchanan was a metaphor; it was like going to see the wise sage on the top of the mountain. I also enjoyed being part of Greg’s remarkable collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) ‘giants’ of computational causal discovery—Peter Spirtes, Clark Glymour, and their group. Besides the fantastic faculty and research projects at...
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